A professional speakers is a storyteller with a message. It doesn’t really matter what the topic is – if you want people to remember who you are, what you have to say and take some action you have to tell stories.
I realised very early on in my speaking career that the biggest challenge I faced was being remembered. Every time I spoke at a convention or conference I was competing with a host of other speakers, many of them putting out a huge quantity of information.
The trouble was that I could not even remember the names of most speakers, let alone what they had spoken about, by the end of the day. And if I did remember a few messages, I often attributed it to the wrong speaker. I have a box full of notebooks packed full of great information I recorded at conferences, but 99% of it never got acted upon.
So I sat down one day and wrote down main messages from the speeches I did remember. In every case the speeches I remembered were packed with stories and it was the message from the story that I remembered. The speaker was a storyteller with a message.
I was really please last month to be invited to participate in the Boost Your Business Speaking Online Virtual Summit. on the topic What’s Your Story. Interestingly this is not a topic I usually speak about its something that I DO.
What’s Your Story?
I think the most important story you need to tell is Your Story. What I want to know when listening to you is why you are the right speaker on this topic. Why should I listen to you and take your advice.
Your story does two things. It gives you credibility and it creates an emotional connection with the audience. It sets you up as the protagonist in your presentation., someone we can all identify with and feel for.
The best advice I have ever had how to find your best stories is to create a time line of your life experiences, particularly your connection with your topic. Then look down that time line and identify the key plot points in your life story.
We all have moments in our life when everything changed forever. As you look at your timeline you will see those moments clearly. Decisions you made, actions you took, life experiences after which nothing would ever be the same again.
It might be a chance meeting, a traumatic incident, a life threatening moment, a bad mistake, a moment of madness, the achievement of a goal or even some blinding flash of the obvious, a realisation of the truth.
At the age of nineteen at college I mentioned to a friend that I fancied a particular girl. “You should join the drama group then, she’s a member,” he said. So I did. There, I auditioned for, and got, a major role in a play and was persuaded that I needed to take some drama training. This provided the foundation for my speaking career. That casual comment to a friend set me on a path that changed my life in so many ways. It helped me to start developing my skill as a storyteller with a message
That wasn’t the only moment – a car crash, a tax bill, and a last minute decision by someone to attend a workshop I was running, those were just a few of the events that set my life on a new course. They were all learning moments I use to present myself as a storyteller with a message.
I was terrified that anyone would ever discover that I was transgender. I lived in fear of the humiliation that would accompany being “outed” until I was 50 years old. Then disaster struck. A huge unpaid tax bill resulted in me loosing my house, my primary source of income ended following a takeover and my then partner threatened to out me to the world. With nothing else left to lose I decided it would be better to “out myself” and my life was set on a completely different course.
Those two story outlines are the basis for stories I tell on my workshops and in keynotes. The stories themselves are quite long, at least 3 to 6 minutes even longer sometimes depending on my purpose in telling the stories and the amount of time available.
The stories provide a clear background to how I came to be where I am and the experiences I can share to help other people. They also provide a foundation for other stories that I can relate back to the main story.
I do use stories about other people, provided I have permission, but what I am trying to do throughout my keynote or workshop is to take the audience on a journey. I want them to see the world through my eyes and remember the messages I connect to each story.
I will be writing frequently about storytelling in this blog and exploring a host of techniques and idea to make your stories more compelling and inspire you to become a storyteller with a message.
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